The Ranch Menu

This 1958 menu from the the Mid-Century Empire Builder‘s Ranch Car is decorated to look like cowhide. The letters “The Ranch” closely resemble those on The Ranch brochure, where they are clearly intended to look like brands in the hide. However, this isn’t as apparent on the menu cover, an oversight that seems strange in view of the Great Northern’s otherwise meticulous attention to detail. At least the GN logo on the cover is from the “G-bar-N” brand that the railway had registered in Montana in June, 1951, to commemorate the new train.

Click image to download a PDF of this menu.

Inside, the menu features two cartoon cowboys who, a close look reveals, are actually Rocky Mountain goats. The most expensive item on the menu is a “Chef’s Suggestion–Plate Meal” consisting of unspecified “meat or fish” with potatoes and vegetable, bread, dessert, and beverage. This is all for $1.85, or about $15 in today’s dollars. A hamburger with fried onions is $0.50, or about $4 today–this at a time when 49 cents would buy you a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake at McDonald’s.

Apparently, even though the Ranch Car was aimed at coach passengers, it didn’t offer particularly inexpensive food. Nor was the quality all that great. While the Empire Builder‘s dining car offered freshly mashed potatoes, the only potatoes on this menu are “whipped,” which almost certainly means instant.


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